One of the strangest techniques I've found is how Bass Pale Ale was mature. So counter-intuitive, I was inclined not to believe it was true.
What was this weird technique? Stacking up barrels of it in the brewery yard and leaving it exposed to the elements for several months, with nothing more than a little moistened straw to keep it cool on the hottest days.
It sounds a crazy way to mature a beer. What with all the temperature variations, especially being exposed to direct sunlight. I'd always thought maturation went on in cool cellars with a constant temperature.
So, even though I'd seen it mentioned in more than one source, there was still a lingering doubt in my mind. It was common for breweries to stack empty barrels in the yard. Had someone misunderstood and mistaken empty barrels for full ones? Things like that happen all the time.
Then I came across this photo (in The Graphic of March 21st, 1908, page 410):
There are a couple of reasons why this confirms that they really were crazy enough to leave full casks outside. Firstly, the title. It's called "The Ale Bank", not the cask bank or empties bank. And the three workers pushing the cask. Wooden barrels are heavy, but even so it doesn't take three men to push one. They aren't that heavy.
I can sleep easier now I've got that one sorted out in my head.
A BBC Documentary on Problem Drinking - Periodically we examine, as part of a general interest in beer and alcohol history, textual and film treatments on temperance/Prohibition, alcohol control,...
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